Thursday, November 16, 2006

New York: Erotica in Chinatown

It just so happened that while I was in New York, a free reading of erotica was happening in Chinatown, so I went. I've liked reading Lusty Lady's column in Village Voice, and she hosts this monthly reading series at Happy Ending Lounge. My companion and I went different ways after seeing Wicked, he to check up on his 'stepson', me to find the library so I could look up just where the erotica reading was. For some oddball flaky pms-y scatterbrain reason I left the printout that I carried all the way with me from Portland back in the hotel room. This was a trip full of obstacles. Some would say the cosmos was trying to tell me something, or at least my subconscious. He said he would call me to find out where we would meet. (He didn't. Why couldn't he just say he didn't want to go? I could tell that, but he still acted like he would meet me. Sheesh.) Before he went the other direction, he pointed me to the library at Bryant Park. (Now I know that the entrance with the lions I found on my last NY visit is temporarily closed. This time I found the right door.)

That was an experience. Here in my Multnomah County Library visitors get a guest pass good for an hour. This was a research library of the NYPL system, and they simply gave me a card good for three years, compete with photo.

ny lib card back nypl front

You sign up on the computer, are given a computer and a time, and a receipt prints so you don't forget. The guy before me leaves a few minutes early so I gain a few minutes. I go to the Village Voice website. The sex columns are blocked! Good grief, thanks to CIPA, this research library that needs federal funds, in which I don't see anybody under 25 years, has filtered web access. With a little creative googling, I find out the actual name of the reading series, and the blogspot page for In the Flesh is not filtered. Hallelujah. I guess that's what they mean when they say there are ways around the filters.

Now I knew where I was going and what subway to take and I only had about an hour to get there. I almost missed the door. This Chinatown was grungier and dirtier than Flushing Chinatown. The address led me down a narrow alley with the closed metal doors everywhere. I almost walked by, but I did see the address on the awning. I looked closer at the 2-way mirror doors. Was that a bar? Here in Portland the only places I know of with doors like that are the dirty movie theater and the dirty bookstores. Closer, closer, in tiny print, grey on silver, Happy Ending Lounge. The gatekeeper opened the door for me.

A dark hallway lined with candles led me to a tiny bar, hardly bigger than my living room, I thought. The walls were lined with velvety red cloth, padded. Three or four half-circle booths to my left, curved benches and little ottomans for seats. To my right, a curved wall with bench, little low tables and more ottomans. I asked a pretty blond with drink and open binder notebook if the seat next to her was taken. She gladly bade me sit next to her, and introduced herself as Christen, one of the writers. She was having trouble deciding what to read, because her book Baby Love wasn't exactly erotica, but did have some sexy passages. She was working on her first drink. I figured I'd better get one, since the show was free. Ten bucks, another buck for a tip. I decided since I wasn't really interested in drinking I would nurse that ten buck drink through the evening.

Christen was buoyantly hopping up and returning to her seat: to the restroom; to greet other people; to talk to the host, Rachel. Each time she returned, I picked up her binder notebook and handed it back to her, which earned me a "You're so sweet!" (Takes one to know one.) We developed a comfortable table-mate camaraderie. Her reading turned out to be last, and she admitted right up front that she'd had a couple of drinks so she didn't quite know how it would work out. She was fabulous, quite a performer, and had a funny sexy story about facing her libido's shyness by preparing to masturbate while nursing...but then the fedex guy rang the doorbell.

When I first arrived I wondered how few people they expected, since the room was so small, but we got cosy. There were 6-8 people on our wall bench, where I thought there would be 3 or 4. There were about a dozen people standing near the restrooms. So I would say there were around 50 people in the space, everybody happy and sexually charged by the readings. It didn't hurt that Rachel scored free cupcakes for us, and handed out books she'd got for review. I scored a whodunit mystery with lesbian romance...I can't remember the title because I read it on the plane, and when I finished it I donated it to the Friends of the Library.

Some of the writers were simply readers, some with really great writing, some just ok. Some were performers. I was especially impressed with Mo Beasley and his team of performance poets, as were we all. Christen and I shared a moment of lustiness for Mr. Beasley. He was so fine...and talented. I was thinking it was a good thing my companion didn't show after all. Should I ever visit New York again, I would look for the Urban Erotika performers.

I also especially liked the writing of Stephen Elliott and Jami Attenberg. I told Christen I couldn't believe this was free! I was happy I had the chance to sit next to her.

No comments: